Every patient we see is unique, but unfortunately, many of them come in telling a similar story. They are suffering from chronic pain and are searching for answers. You may have heard other terms for chronic pain like Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.
But, the bottom line is that many patients come to see us because they want to avoid the medications, the spinal injections, and the spinal stimulators that are commonly used for treatment of chronic pain problems. Today, I would like to share Debra’s story with you, and my hope is that if you are suffering today, this will encourage you to not give up.
Everything Looked Good
Debra came to our Fort Collins office from Denver. She had a complex injury to her foot due to a fractured heel. With this type of injury, it is not uncommon for surgery to be indicated to put the heel back in the proper position. This injury will typically present with not one, but multiple fractures. Her X-rays showed screws and plates in the heel bone, and everything looked good.
But She Was Not So Good
Debra was suffering from chronic pain. She had severe burning, tingling, numbness, and throbbing in her foot and into her leg. She had been referred to a pain clinic and was on narcotics, which were causing her to fall asleep at work. Because the fatigue was so extreme, she was going to bed at 7:00pm, and she felt it was dangerous for her to even drive her children around. The next step for her was to consider a spinal implant for electrical stimulation to help with her pain. Drugs and the implant are common conventional methods to help these patients. She came to me to explore her other options.
After examining Debra, it was apparent that a nerve had been damaged from the surgery she had. The surgery was a success in terms of repairing the broken heel, but she was now left with residual pain. A small nerve called the sural nerve that lies on the outside of the ankle became entangled in the scar tissue from the surgery. On her first visit I injected a small amount of local anesthetic with cortisone above the area of nerve damage. She returned several days later and said, “The pain is coming back, but for three days, it was almost completely gone!”
Because of her chronic pain, the doctor had warned her not to contemplate any kind of surgery in the foot or leg, so we did another injection. She came back again and again, and with the same response each time! Eventually after two or three injections to calm this injured nerve, she had faith in what I was suggesting that we do.
The Source of the Pain
So what did we do? Because of the severe amount of damage to the nerve, we made a small incision in her lower leg just above the ankle. Through this incision, we cut the nerve and buried the tip in the muscle. Why the removal? The nerve was the pain generator. Why did we bury the tip in the muscle? This is commonly done to minimize the possibility of the tip of the nerve causing pain. When a nerve is cut, it wants to recreate more nerve tissue and we call this an amputation, or stump neuroma. By burying the nerve in the muscle, it reduces the chance of the area being sensitive to touch.
It is very important to note two things:
- The nerve removed does not supply any muscles that could result in weakness. In fact, she should become stronger as she can now use her pain-free leg even more!
- The numbness tends to go away as the other remaining nerves will sprout new branches and make up for her numbness. Months later, most patients report minimal numbness.
What We Believe
My message to you is this. If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain, please do not give up hope. Maybe you are on medications and struggling with the side effects. Maybe you are suffering from the stress or depression caused by chronic pain.
We believe that the time has come to change the game regarding the approach to helping people suffering from chronic pain. We may be able to address the source of your pain just like we did for Debra.
Don’t wait. Come see us. Click here to make an appointment.